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Apple once threatened Facebook ban over Mideast maid abuse

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Two years ago, Apple threatened to pull Facebook and Instagram from its app store over concerns about the platform being used as a tool to trade and sell maids in the Mideast.

After publicly promising to crack down, Facebook acknowledged in internal documents obtained by The Associated Press that it was "under-enforcing on confirmed abusive activity" that saw Filipina maids complaining on the social media site of being abused. Apple relented and Facebook and Instagram remained in the app store.

But Facebook's crackdown seems to have had a limited effect. Even today, a quick search for "khadima," or "maids" in Arabic, will bring up accounts featuring posed photographs of Africans and South Asians with ages and prices listed next to their images. That's even as the Philippines government has a team of workers that do nothing but scour Facebook posts each day to try and protect desperate job seekers from criminal gangs and unscrupulous recruiters using the site. 

While the Mideast remains a crucial source of work for women in Asia and Africa hoping to provide for their families back home, Facebook acknowledged some countries across the region have "especially egregious" human rights issues when it comes to laborers' protection. 

"In our investigation, domestic workers frequently complained to their recruitment agencies of being locked in their homes, starved, forced to extend their contracts indefinitely, unpaid, and repeatedly sold to other employers without their consent," one Facebook document read. "In response, agencies commonly told them to be more agreeable."

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Billionaire tax hits critics as Biden pushes for budget deal

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Democrats' idea for a new billionaires' tax to help pay for President Joe Biden's social services and climate change plan quickly ran into criticism as too cumbersome with some lawmakers preferring the original plan of simply raising the top tax rates on corporations and the wealthy.

Biden said Monday he's hopeful the talks with Congress can wrap up overall agreement on the package this week. It's tallying at least $1.75 trillion, and could still be more. Biden said it would be "very, very positive to get it done" before he departs for two overseas global summits.

"That's my hope," the president said before leaving his home state of Delaware for a trip to New Jersey to highlight the child care proposals in the package and a related infrastructure measure. "With the grace of God and the goodwill of the neighbors."

Resolving the revenue side is key as the Democrats scale back what had been a $3.5 trillion plan, insisting all the new spending will be fully paid for and not pile onto the debt. Biden vows any new taxes would hit only the wealthy, those earning more than $400,000 a year, or $450,000 for couples.

The White House had to rethink its tax strategy after one key Democrat, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., objected to her party's initial proposal to raise tax rates on wealthy Americans by undoing the Trump-era tax cuts on those earning beyond $400,000. Sinema also opposed lifting the 21 percent corporate tax rate. With a 50-50 Senate, Biden has no votes to spare in his party.

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Protesters burn tires, block roads in Sudan a day after coup

CAIRO (AP) — Pro-democracy protesters blocked roads in Sudan's capital with makeshift barricades and burning tires Tuesday, a day after the military seized power in a swift coup widely denounced by the international community.

The takeover came after weeks of mounting tensions between military and civilian leaders over the course and the pace of Sudan's transition to democracy. It threated to derail that process, which has progressed in fits and starts since the overthrow of longtime autocrat Omar al-Bashir in a popular uprising two years ago. 

The United Nations Security Council was to discuss the situation in a closed-door meeting later in the day.

Western governments and the U.N. condemned the coup and called for the release of Prime Minister Abdalla Hamdok and other senior officials, who were arrested Monday. U.S. President Joe Biden's administration announced the suspension of $700 million in emergency assistance to Sudan, a nation in Africa linked by language and culture to the Arab world.

Mariam al-Mahdi, the foreign minister in the government that the military dissolved, was defiant Tuesday, declaring that she and other members of Hamdok's administration remained the legitimate authority in Sudan.

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Majority in US concerned about climate: AP-NORC/EPIC poll

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden heads to a vital U.N. climate summit at a time when a majority of Americans regard the deteriorating climate as a problem of high importance to them, an increase from just a few years ago.

About 6 out of 10 Americans also believe that the pace of global warming is speeding up, according to a new survey from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and the Energy Policy Institute at the University of Chicago. 

As Biden struggles to pass significant climate legislation at home ahead of next week's U.N. climate summit, the new AP-NORC/EPIC poll also shows that 55 percent of Americans want Congress to pass a bill to ensure that more of the nation's electricity comes from clean energy and less from climate-damaging coal and natural gas. 

Only 16 percent of Americans oppose such a measure for electricity from cleaner energy. A similar measure initially was one of the most important parts of climate legislation that Biden has before Congress. But Biden's proposal to reward utilities with clean energy sources and penalize those without ran into objections from a coal-state senator, Democrat Joe Manchin of West Virginia, leaving fellow Democrats scrambling to come up with other ways to slash pollution from burning fossil fuels.

For some of the Americans watching, it's an exasperating delay in dealing with an urgent problem.

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In fatal shooting, some political foes take aim at Baldwin

NEW YORK (AP) — Details are still emerging about how Alec Baldwin accidentally shot and killed a cinematographer on a New Mexico film set, but some political onlookers swiftly assigned guilt to one of Hollywood's most prominent liberals.

Right-wing pundits and politicians have long chafed at Baldwin's criticism of former President Donald Trump and his Trump parody on "Saturday Night Live." They wasted little time zeroing in on the actor who pulled the trigger. The hashtag #AlecForPrison ricocheted around Twitter.

Within hours of the shooting, Ohio Republican Senate candidate J.D. Vance asked Twitter to let Trump back on the social media platform that banned him after the Capitol insurrection. "We need Alec Baldwin tweets," Vance wrote.

By Monday, Trump's oldest son was selling $28 T-shirts on his official website with the slogan "Guns don't kill people, Alec Baldwin kills people." The post was later removed.

Gun violence has long divided the country, but the fact that some observers seemed to revel in Baldwin's role in the shooting added a political dimension to the tragedy. CNN host Jake Tapper on Sunday called Hutchins' death "heartbreaking for normal people."

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The judge leading Beirut blast probe: Discreet and defiant

BEIRUT (AP) — For eight months, he has quietly investigated one of the world's worst non-nuclear explosions with only four assistants — and a lot of powerful detractors trying to block him. 

In that time, Judge Tarek Bitar has become a household name in Lebanon and a staple on every news bulletin. 

For many Lebanese, Bitar's investigation of last year's massive Beirut port explosion is their only hope for truth and accountability in a country that craves both. Billboards in Beirut showing a fist holding a gavel read: "Only Tarek can take our revenge," a play on Arabic words using the judge's last name.

But to the country's entrenched political class, the enigmatic 47-year-old has turned into a nightmare. Politicians have united as they rarely do to remove him from his post, apparently deeming him a threat much greater than the country's collapsing economy, the state's empty coffers and burgeoning unemployment, poverty and public anger.

Bitar has not shied away from summoning a dozen senior former and current government officials, some of them on charges of criminal negligence and homicide with probable intent. He issued arrest warrants for two former ministers when they refused to appear before him.

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In Louisiana, a father, a son and a culture of police abuse

MONROE, La. (AP) — Growing up in the piney backwoods of northern Louisiana, where yards were dotted with crosses and the occasional Confederate flag, Jacob Brown was raised on hunting, fishing and dreams of becoming a state trooper.

But within weeks of arriving at the Louisiana State Police training academy in Baton Rouge, instructors pegged Brown as trouble. One wrote that he was an arrogant, chronic rule breaker with "toxic" character traits that should disqualify him from ever joining the state's elite law enforcement agency. 

Fortunately for Brown, the state police was known as a place where who you knew often trumped what you did, and where most introductory chats eventually got around to a simple question: Who's your daddy?

Jacob Brown is the son of Bob Brown, then part of the state police's top brass who would rise to second in command despite being reprimanded years earlier for calling Black colleagues the n-word and hanging a Confederate flag in his office. And the son would not only become a "legacy hire" but prove his instructors prophetic by becoming one of the most violent troopers in the state, reserving most of his punches, flashlight strikes and kicks for the Black drivers he pulled over along the soybean and cotton fields near where he grew up.

When friends and colleagues would ask Bob Brown how his first-born was getting along as a trooper, he'd respond with a seemingly innocuous boast: 

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AP PHOTOS: In Gambia, Kankurang initiation rite teaches boys

BAKAU, Gambia (AP) — Sharp sounds of clanking machetes cut the air as a warning that the Kankurang is coming. 

Fearful children nearby run inside their homes as the scary figure approaches, grunting. Others, more curious, risk a closer look at the man dressed to represent the spiritual figure.

The traditional Kankurang wears a mask made of bark and his body is covered in leaves and red fiber from the faara tree. Other Kangkurangs with him wear colorful outfits with masks of cowrie shells.

The Kankurangs are followed by a small procession of teenagers and young men who are accompanying four young boys nearing the end of a month-long initiation rite, which is practiced by the Mandinka ethnic groups in Gambia and neighboring Senegal.

Despite his fearsome appearance, the Kankurang symbolizes the spirit that provides order and justice and is considered a protector against evil. He appears at ceremonies where circumcised boys are taught cultural practices, including discipline and respect.

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'We've got to run' -- Idaho mall shooting leaves 2 dead

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Police say they exchanged gunfire with a suspect during a shooting at a shopping mall in Boise, Idaho, that killed two people and injured four -- including an officer.

Boise Police Chief Ryan Lee said at a news conference the shooting was reported about 1:50 p.m. on Monday — as well as a report that one person was "shot and down" at that time. 

When the officers arrived, they spotted someone who matched the description of the suspect. 

"There was an exchange of gunfire that ensued shortly thereafter, resulting in the officer's injury, as well as the suspect being taken into custody," Lee said. Investigators believe there was only one shooter, and there is no ongoing danger to the public, he said.

Police on Monday evening said in a news release that the suspect was in critical condition at a hospital and that the officer who was hurt had been treated and released. Authorities didn't release any other information about the victims or the suspect, saying the investigation was ongoing.

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Ex-South Korean President Roh Tae-woo dies at 88

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — Former South Korean President Roh Tae-woo, a major player in a 1979 coup who later became president in a landmark democratic election before ending his tumultuous political career in prison, died on Tuesday. He was 88.

The Seoul National University Hospital said Roh died while being treated for an illness. It gave no further details or his cause of death. Roh, who ruled South Korea as president from 1988-1993, was known to have suffered many health problems including cerebellar atrophy for years. 

Roh was a key participant in the December 1979 military coup that made his army friend and coup leader Chun Doo-hwan president after their mentor, dictator Park Chung-hee, was assassinated following 18 years of rule.

Roh led his army division into Seoul and joined other military leaders for operations to seize the capital. The coup — and a subsequent crackdown by the Chun-controlled military on pro-democracy protesters in the southern city of Gwangju in 1980 — are two of the darkest chapters in South Korea's turbulent modern history. About 200 people were killed in the military-led crackdown in Gwangju, according to government records. 

Roh was Chun's hand-picked successor, which would have assured him the presidency in an easy indirect election. But a massive pro-democracy uprising in 1987 forced Roh and Chun to accept a direct presidential election that was regarded as the start of South Korea's transition to democracy. 

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